There has not been an official statement from Washington regarding the peace pact between the NWFP government and Maulana Fazlullah in Swat, but both the White House and Congress are extremely critical of the federal government’s negotiations in Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which have been going on in parallel. This response is summarized comprehensively by Anwar Iqbal in an article in today’s Dawn4:
At a special hearing on Fata at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Republican and Democratic lawmakers put their differences aside in urging the administration to use its influence and persuade Pakistan to call off the talks.
The US media and think tanks are already opposing the talks and questioning Washington’s wisdom in providing military and economic assistance to a government which is making peace overtures to America’s enemies.
The article also contains a statement John Kerry which really highlights the differences between the US and Pakistan in their policy aims for the tribal areas:
In the Senate, Senator John Kerry, a former Democratic presidential candidate, initiated the debate on Pakistan’s peace talks with the tribal militants when he recalled that during his meetings with Pakistan’s new leaders in February, he realised they had a very different understanding of the nature of the terrorist threat in Fata than the United States.
“In two days of meetings, Osama bin Laden’s name was hardly ever mentioned. Instead, the Pakistanis are focused on confronting a growing domestic Pashtun insurgency led by Baitullah Mehsud,” he said
There is a brief summary of negative reactions to the Swat deal at the end of this CBS News article1:
Washington was officially reserving judgment on the deal. The Associated Press reported that State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, when pressed for comment Wednesday, said simply: “We’ll see.”
This ABC News article2 has a similar statement from former Clinton chief counter-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke:
“While the deal sounds good, it’s likely to be implemented badly,” said Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant and former White House counterterrorism chief. “What this means is that the United States will continue to be threatened by an al Qaeda that has a safe haven where it can attract people from around the world, be trained and equipped and sent out to the United States and other countries around the world.”
The NWFP government is very conscious of the need to put as good a spin on the truce as possible. The NWFP Minister for Information and Inter-Provincial Coordination, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, urged members of the media3 to write favourable editorials highlighting the positive results of the agreement.
The interesting thing about Hussain’s remarks was his insistence on the differences between Swat and FATA:
The Information Minister said the situation of Swat was different from the restive areas of FATA and international community, which is expressing some concerns over the pact, will accept it with passage of time as it in the interest of every body.
This is what he had to say about the federal government’s much more controversial agreement with the followers of Baitullah Mehsud in Waziristan:
Asked about talks with militants in FATA, the Information Minister said that tribal had rendered great sacrifices during the creation and strengthening of Pakistan and said that peace can be restored in the troubled areas of FATA if the federal government take NWFP government on board in process of negotiation.
This attempt to distance the NWFP government from the FATA negotiations is not surprising since the US has taken a much firmer stance on FATA and has not yet officially commented on Swat.
1 Bokhari, Farhan. (May 22, 2008). Pakistan Signs Truce With Militants. CBS News.
2 Khan, Habibullah and Peters, Gretchen. (May 22, 2008). U.S. Officials Call Pakistan Deal ‘Bin Laden Victory’. ABC News
3 (May 22, 2008). Media, intelligentsia urged to positively highlight Swat peace pact.. Associated Press of Pakistan.
4Iqbal, Anwar. (May 22, 2008). US wants Baitullah arrested, talks abandoned. The Dawn: